In the latest issue:

The Word from Wuhan

Wang Xiuying

‘The Man in the Red Coat’

Luc Sante

Is it OK to have a child?

Meehan Crist

Short Cuts: Ubu Unchained

August Kleinzahler

Bury that bastard

Nicole Flattery

Surplus Sons

Clare Bucknell

Oliver Lee Jackson

Adam Shatz

The Servant Problem

Alison Light

Poem: ‘1 x 30’

Anne Carson

The Old Bailey

Francis FitzGibbon

Jiggers, Rods and Barleycorns

James Vincent

More Marple than Poirot

J. Robert Lennon

On Rachael Allen

Matthew Bevis

Like a Ball of Fire

Andrew Cockburn

The Staffordshire Hoard

Tom Shippey

Blessed Isles

Mary Wellesley

At the Movies: ‘Jojo Rabbit’ and ‘A Hidden Life’

Michael Wood

Redeeming Winnie

Heribert Adam

Diary: A Friendly Fighting Force

Nick McDonell

The ScribesAlistair Elliot
Close
Close

More and more often, knowing that you’re dying,
I think of the letter-writers at the post office
in that hot square, with their low desks and dip-pens
waiting in the shade of their municipal trees
for the illiterate victims of time and distance –
the dealers in words, renewing or untying.

Whenever I passed them I would think of paying
to have my raw wish wrapped in the empty nets
of their professional calligraphy,
the well-rubbed language of a thousand nights,
and always hesitated (‘how could she
know what these frightening loops and spikes were saying?’).

I should have paid, and risked your sitting crying
in your own post office, half-wanting to laugh
at this incomprehensible world of effort.
But how could I foresee our separate lives? –
and the need for something kept from the fire, a comfort
framed on the wall, a cause of shrugs and smiling,

diploma from another way of lying:
those syllables, formed by someone with the tip
of his tongue just showing, would say I love you (formal),
I love you (intimate) over your throne-of-sleep –
where you no longer        (verb used only by female)
between the Indian coverlet and the domes of silence.

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